Here’s What’s Happening In The Private Section Of America’s Quirkiest Car Museum

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Lane Motor Museum’s restoration shop is one part of the museum that isn’t really open to the public. On warm days, the shop will open the roll up door, put up a “do not enter” strap, and guests can gawk at the cars and the mechanics like they’re at a gorilla habitat. Occasionally they’ll ask a few questions if staff are within earshot. We politely ask visitors to not feed the technicians…they’ll just want more of your beef jerky and chocolate bars.

Anyway, I wanted to give a periodic “what’s in the shop” update. It will be sporadic, because some of these items are loooong term projects. If something new and exciting comes into the shop, I’ll grab a few pics and write an update.

1938 Tatra T-97

Readying out red Tatra T87 for museum director Jeff Lane's 1,000 mile trek around California

Jeremy is working on readying this rear-engine, air-cooled beauty for museum director Jeff Lane’s 1,000 mile drive in the Hagerty California Mille vintage car rally in a few weeks. That means going through the brakes, replacing the tires, fixing some minor electrical issues, replacing the non-working wiper motor, flushing the transmission fluid, and going through linkages and the steering box — all so that the boss doesn’t suffer a DNF.

Also, do you want to see something a tiny percentage of humans throughout history have seen?

That’s what’s under the rear seat of a Tatra T97. A rare sight indeed.

[Editor’s note: I actually added this pic and those couple sentences because I adore these cars, and I’m certain hardly anyone reading this has seen what’s under the rear luggage floor of a T97, and under the back seat. What we’re looking at is the rear frame fork under the seat, and the transmission and starter under the luggage floor to the rear. 

Anyone who has worked on a VW Beetle in this same are is likely to note an eerie similarity, but with better access to the starter. – JT]

1995 Futura/Waimea

We acquired this heavily customized Chevy Corvair-based car from legendary car restorer/TV host Wayne Carini about a year ago. It was featured on his TV show, Chasing Classic Cars, and the last segment of the episode was about us (which was great….Wayne’s really nice). I’ll go into what this is in a later article, but basically, in the 1990s, the original builder found this concept drawing from a 1960s Kaiser Aluminum ad by Rhys Miller (purportedly of Ford Thunderbird fame):

 

Somehow, they looked at this incredible thing and said, ”yeah, I’m gonna build THAT!”

Oooh boy, what doesn’t this thing need? It currently isn’t running. One of the carburetors is overflowing, so that will have to be rebuilt. The transmission is leaking fluid, the differential is leaking, almost all of the bushings are worn out, it will need a new gas tank, the starter doesn’t engage, and the electric windows, blower motor, and radio do not work.

I drove it out of the museum when we first got it, as we wanted to to take pictures, and, well, it steered like the front wheels were two bowling balls attached by a rope. The steering feels the way it does because in order to achieve that cool-looking center-mount position, the steering is a hybrid between a chain-drive and a standard system that; by design, it has a whole heap of slop.  Jeremy says the horn, headlights, and taillights work, so there’s a bright side. Well, two.

1962 Citroën 2CV “Sahara”

The 2CV just needs a front bumper. Our fabricator Nick is currently making one. It had a bit of work done last year in preparation for an off-road event, so it’s fairly mechanically sorted.

1974 Citroën 2CV

Parking in the museum can be tight. This Citroen 2CV suffered a little ding.

This one has a dent in its left rear fender put there by yours truly. The guys in the shop are trying to color match it. I swear I’m normally a good driver, but things happen. The embarrassing part is that I was backing up a Fisker Karma in the museum basement — a car with backup sensors AND a grainy backup camera, with someone spotting me, and I still dinged it. It was sitting in the aisleway and difficult to get around, in my lousy defense. The Karma was totally unscathed. Oh well….c’est la vie.

1966 Honda S600 Coupe

A Honda S600 coupe in the museum workshop, sans engine

This rare little guy has most of its interior completed, but its engine is currently getting a rebuild. [Ed Note: The Honda S600 was the development of the S360, a little chain-driven sports car that was Honda’s first actual car, and should have warned the rest of the world’s carmakers that something big was happening. They’re amazing little roadsters. – JT]

1952 Gregory Sports Roadster

The chassis of the Gregory Sports Roadster in the museum workshop

Kansas City native Ben Gregory was an early proponent of front-wheel drive. From 1920-1922, he tried to put a car into production, and it is believed that about ten were made. Funding ran out, and Gregory gave up on the car business. After WWII, he again became interested in producing a front-wheel drive car.

And yes, that engine up front is an air-cooled Porsche 356 engine, which, as you know, is normally found at the rear of cars.

A collection of rare panels in the museum workshop

He made a couple of sedans (we have one of the two), and this is the only roadster he produced. Our in-house German technician, Michael, recently finished its chassis. He is currently painting its aluminum panels, so this one is inching closer to completion.

1947 Tatra T-87

The Tatra T-87 is a legendary Czech car from the 1940s with an air-cooled V8 at the rear and a reputation for being so tricky to drive, German SS officers were forbidden to try it. But it can be considered a supercar of its era, because of how advanced the design and engineering was for its time,

That air-cooled V8 engine from ours is getting a rebuild, along with the transaxle. The car is currently on display, just sans engine. It was sent out for a new paint job last year after an automotive journalist (NOT Jason or David) rolled it onto its side at a race track. He was fine, but proved his point about rear-engine Tatras being prone to flip over. We turned it into a tee shirt…you can get one in the museum gift shop.

 

There are few more long term projects I’ll hit on next time. And this is just the “upper” shop, where deeper restoration and mechanical work takes place. Our fleet management team works in the basement storage area, handling day-to-day maintenance work, driving the cars to keep them healthy, and readying the cars for display and for visiting journalists who want to drive them (ahem). I’ll introduce those guys in a future article and show you how they change out museum exhibits.

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31 Responses

  1. We really need to get to The Lane… We’ve got a 1934 Hansa (Borgward) 1100 rat rod (long story) and would love to see the restored one you have. Are all the cars available to view? Could we make an appointment to see a specific car if we had a connection to it (like owning one of only a handful in the US)? And the next time I bump into the journalist who rolled the T-87, I’ll tell him hi for you guys… 🙂

  2. I have that T-shirt from our visit there last summer. Awesome place. I really want to see an article about the LARC-LX. Would also love to see video of it moving under it’s own power!

    P.S. My wife and I spent a fair bit of time after our visit to find out more about the Waimea online.

  3. I like to hit the different car museums when I travel, a lot of great ones out there. I was in Nashville in 2017, looked up what was there and found the Lane Museum, we spent the afternoon there. Probably the most unique car museum out there, some pretty cool stuff.

  4. The Gregory intrigues me. It seems like it would be difficult to change a rear engine architecture into a front engine front wheel drive one given space constraints. I seem to recall he made an earlier car that was rear engined and front wheel drive?

  5. You know what we need? A picture of what’s under the rear seat of a Tatra. And my reply to you sir, is, yes! Yes, we do!

    This is exactly the sort of nerded out content that has me so excited about this new venture. Keep it coming!

  6. Man, I love Tatras….such amazing cars. A shame your silver one got damaged, but I remember reading the article where it happened and they were driving it after they flipped it back over, so hopefully it won’t be too hard to get sorted!

  7. That Tatra is a thing of beauty. During the period that car was new, it was one of very few production cars that could exceed 100 mph. The Tatras were used as getaway cars by British spies because there was next to nothing that could keep up with them at the time. Albeit, there were much faster cars owned by rich people, such as the Alfa Romeo 8C 2600, which could do 0-60 mph in about 7 seconds and top out at 135 mph, which still holds up as “quick” in the modern day almost 90 years later.

    The 1935 Tatra T77A that preceded the T87 had a drag coefficient of 0.21, which was not matched by any mass produced car sold in the U.S. until the Tesla Model 3(and it has higher figures depending upon the wind tunnel that tested it, up to 0.23), albeit it should be mentioned the GM EV1 had a 0.19 drag coefficient, but EV1s were deliberately never sold by GM.

  8. Dang, I’m Czech originally (born there…), and love Tatras & 2CV’s – but been living in North America since 1980. All my fave’s in this article! Anyway, where can I get one of them T-Shirts in 2XL please!? Man I would love to visit the Lane museum – been in my sights for 10 yrs but just don’t get out that way very often (or ever). Kinda far from the west coast 🙁 – Looks like you have a dream job Rex!

    1. We wish we could sell the T-shirt online, but we’re just not set up for that. It’s a real-life visit kinda thing, I’m afraid. One day, when we have a bigger staff, and or more robots, we can start selling out items online.

      We have occasionally come to West Coast events…I was at the Japanese Classic Car Show in 2018, and Jeff usually brings something to the Pebble Beach Concours.

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